Do you own a business that serves a local market? When I say local market, I mean geographically in your town, suburb, or city (for example, we are in Temecula). If you do, having a good SEO presence in Google search results is so important to growing leads, especially after Google’s latest change to its search results page.
Google is often the first place people turn to when researching a company or service – as a matter of fact, according to Google, 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local information.
And 50% of mobile searches lead to in-store visits within one day.
I am sharing with you some of the basic things you need to do now to build a better local SEO foundation and start improving your SEO presence.
This post will cover basic citations and listings with data aggregators, and some tactics you need to implement on your own website.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list about local SEO. However, what I’m covering below will certainly help you build a solid foundation and get you on your way (for a more comprehensive and detailed SEO article, read our post about how to rank at the top of the page on Google).
The sooner you get started on local SEO optimization the better. It can take 90 – 120 days for these efforts to trickle back to the search engines and have an impact.
The Basics – Google’s Local Pack
First, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same area in Google’s search result page. What is a local SEO search result, or sometimes referred to as a local pack?
The three businesses listed in the screenshot below are part of Google’s Local Pack. These are organic (non-paid listings) local listings.
The listings you see here will vary greatly depending on your location, past search history, the intent of your query, and more. It's common that searchers will see different results based on the aforementioned variables that affect what Google displays.
Local SEO Ranking Factors: Citations, Data Aggregators
It’s important to recognize that Google is trying to serve the most relevant and reliable search results it can to local searchers. If Google’s local search results are unreliable people would stop using Google.
Ranking well in Google’s organic local pack is usually not an easy task – it takes consistent ongoing effort and is highly dependent on the competitive environment for a particular phrase.
Also, there are many other variables that contribute to a site’s ability to rank well. And it’s even more challenging if the competition is proactive with its local SEO efforts.
For local search results in a Google local pack, part of what Google relies on are numerous outside sources that validate the same name, address, phone (i.e. NAP) information for your business. There are two primary sources for validation – Data aggregators and citations.
One source that Google and the other search engines use are data aggregators – these are independent 3rd party sources that collect information about businesses and feed the search engines with NAP information for your business. I cover these down below.
Citations are other websites that list your name, address, and phone number (i.e. your NAP). An example of a citation is your Yelp listing or the local chamber of commerce that you belong to that lists your business.
When many 3rd party trusted websites list your information consistently, which also aligns with the same information that the data aggregators are sending to the search engines, then you have dozens of points of trust and a higher likelihood of ranking well.
Consistency in your business’ NAP information is one of the single biggest contributors to whether you rank in Google’s local pack.
Correct Categorization of Your Business
As you go through this list and submit your business, some sites will ask you to categorize your business. Many sites do not offer consistent categories between them. But make sure to list your business consistently in your business’ categories if you can.
And remember to fill out your company’s profile as completely and thoroughly as possible for each site. Incomplete listings are never a good thing.
So let’s get into the tactics. Read on if you want to start improving your local SEO presence.
Off-Site Local SEO
Data Aggregators and Third-Party Database Feeds
There are several main data aggregators that feed your business’s information to the search engines. Make sure you get your business listed in each of them. Search for your business first before submitting. Here’s a list:
- Data Axle
- Neustar Localeze
A large part of your business’s ability to show in the local search pack (a 3 pack now) is a result of what we call citations.
Citations are other websites that list your business’ NAP (name, address phone). There doesn’t necessarily even have to be a link back to your website, just the fact that a site lists your business’ NAP counts as a positive vote in Google’s eyes.
A good example of a citation is your Yelp page. Below is my company’s Yelp listing with its NAP highlighted.
A Yelp citation is a highly authoritative and trusted source in Google’s eyes.
5 Strong Foundational Citation Sites
On-Site Local SEO: Things To Do On Your Own Site
Make sure your NAP is the same throughout your own website. Is the NAP listed the same on every page? No variations in name, address or phone number?
Don’t worry about the difference between Suite, Ste, or # – Google can normalize these variances.
Common recommendations are to have your NAP listed in the footer of every page.
Advanced tip: markup your NAP on your website with Schema (microdata). If you’re not comfortable with the technical aspects of coding on your site then reach out to your web developer regarding this. Below is an example of what that might look like.
Google actually prefers JSON markup like the below. This type of schema goes in the <head> section of your page.
If you're unsure if your website has NAP schema already, you can use Google's Rich Results Test tool. The tool will produce results of what schema markup it finds on your page and if there are any warning or errors.
As an example, this test showed there was a warning.
Additional Pro Tips for Additional Citations
If you belong to a chamber of commerce or any other trade associations, alumni organizations, the BBB, make sure you get a citation listing your company’s NAP and a link back to your website if they provide it.
Research Your Competitors
Google itself can be a great source to find authoritative sites for citations.
Below I searched for “restaurant near me”
Then click on the name of any of these companies and you will get a short list of citation sites that list a particular company. So, in this case, I clicked on the name of the second Google listing, then scrolled down to find the list sites under “Web results” also listing this same company. Likely these are very authoritative for this particular company - Google wouldn't show them otherwise - so if you do not have one of these then consider adding your company.
Go down the list of companies and view the listings for each to find other opportunities.
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You can read more of my posts about SEO here.
And one of my most in-depth articles on how to get your website on Google’s First page.